If your website is built on the open-source WordPress platform, you already know why website owners and developers love it so much. It’s flexible, completely customizable, and easy to use – even for non-technical people.
The fact that WordPress is open-source has its pros and cons. Pros: It is constantly being updated and improved upon. Cons: It is constantly being updated and improved upon – and therein lies a big problem that many small businesses run into.
WordPress updates (4.0.1 is the most recent version) address critical security flaws found in previous versions. They explicitly state, “[W]e strongly encourage you to update your sites immediately…. WordPress versions 3.9.2 and earlier are affected by a critical cross-site scripting vulnerability, which could enable anonymous users to compromise a site.” — the Automattic team at WordPress
In other words, your site could get hacked.
As WordPress releases updates, every user will see a message at the top of the Dashboard when they log in that says something like, “WordPress version 4.0.1 is available. Update now.” The very good news is that clicking “Update now” will not break your website (unless you have not updated your website in a long time – more on that in a second). Instead, it will keep your website safe and sound and chugging right along.
How to update your WordPress site
It’s worth mentioning that before updating any software or plugins, it’s a very good idea to back up your site files and database.
Once you click “update now” in the message at the top of your dashboard, the update will happen very quickly. In a matter of seconds, you will receive a message letting you know that the update was successful and you will be prompted to log back into your site. Once you log in, you will find a nice little message from WordPress explaining the new features.
How to update your WordPress plugins
Now, while you are thinking about keeping your WordPress site updated, it’s worthwhile to look through your plugins, which are just handy little tools your website developer added to your site to make it work even harder and better on your behalf. For instance, spam filters and sign up forms.
To find out if you have plugins to update, look in the menu column on the left. You will see “Plugins” about two thirds of the way down. If you see a red circle with a number in it, that is WordPress’s way of letting you know how many plugins need to be updated.
Click on Plugins to go to the Plugin page and you will see a list of the plugins currently running on your website. Each plugin that needs to be updated will be marked with a red symbol and a message such as, “There is a new version of WordPress Custom Sidebar available. View version 2.3 details or update now.”
Once again, just click “update now,” and the update will happen in a matter of seconds.
Unfortunately, if you don’t visit your website often or completely forget to update it for several months, your website will stop working. Here are two things you can do to avoid that awful scenario:
Use a super-safe (paid) theme that is updated regularly by whomever designed and developed it (so you can update your version). Never use a premium theme that you “find” for free. It will have malicious code.
Work with a technical team who will take care of everything for you (an especially good idea if you don’t have the time or expertise to update your themes and backup your site weekly or even better…daily)
By (following these two simple steps) you or your technical team will be able to restore your site quickly and easily in the event of a site hack.
Heather Cox’s business, MillerCox Design, is a graphic design firm with a team of talented and expertly-trained publication design professionals. They work to help you communicate more effectively to move your mission forward.
Currently, Heather is focused on launching a new business, the Tiny Little Web Shop, that serves small businesses who sell professional services.
You can view her profile HERE.